If you don’t read the comments sector on SA (and- judging by the subscribers to the comments and the amount of my responses that go unacknowledged-you don’t) you’ll be kicking yourself by the end of this post. In fact you should just start kicking yourself right now. That’s right. In the shins. Use your heel!
If you did read the comments section of posts I wouldn’t be forced to reprint El Guapo’s comment from last Friday’s post and I could just jump right into the topic of serendipity and the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy and how one of the more celebrated children’s authors of today once captained a boat full of hashish from St. Croix to New York City. Since you didn’t, here’s El Guapo’s comment:
Just for shits and giggles, I googled “award winning books in english” and chose the first site on the list, which brought me to the Northport-East Northport Public Library’s page of award winning children’s books. I clicked the first option on that page which took me to the Newbery Medal homepage. From there, I chose the first book on the list which was the 2012 Newbery Award Winner– “Dead End in Norvelt” by Jack Gantos. I think I’m going to buy you this book for your birthday.
Normally, you’d look at that and say, huh. What a random book. And then you’d go back to following that breaking story about the old broad that wrote a review of The Olive Garden and holy shit they have restaurants in Grand Forks!
However, that is not what happened. Because Heaven and Earth and the stars and shit aligned when El Guapo mentioned Mr. Jack Gantos. Jesus himself must have had a hand in this.
You probably never heard of Jack Gantos unless you have somewhat older kids (say older than 8). I’d never heard a thing about him until January 28th, 2012.
On the 28th he was the guest on Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me. And that’s where I learned his back story. You can read a disjointed and poorly written version of it on his Wikipedia page or listen to the part on NPR’s website or read the transcript here.
For you lazy bums that aren’t going to do any of that here’s the Mt. Dew Cliff Notes:
Bro, he totally moved to St. Croix and became bruddahs with some Brits with a boat with like a totally extreme amount of hashish on it so he got gnarly on the boat to win this $10,000 prize but he wiped out hard trying to get out of the harbor in St. Croix. On his second run, though he almost stuck the landing in NYC but while street surfing Greenwich Village with a shopping cart full of hash, the po-po caught up with him and he totally bailed out a window and booked it to Florida with $10 g’s in ten dollar bills before he was caught and clinked for 18 months.
Thus he became the (so far) only Newbery Winner who’s done federal time for drug smuggling. Sweet back story right? Sticks in your head right? Well it stuck in mine. Partly because it’s so odd and partly because if you listen to the episode, he’s a pretty funny and likable guy. In fact I bookmarked his Wikipedia page intending to do some sort of blog on him. Then I completely and utterly forgot about him.
Now here’s the part where things get serendipitous. I had totally forgotten about this guy. I write a post that has nothing do to with him 6 weeks later and I randomly put a line about Googling “award winning books in english” and one of my dear, dear readers types this in and just starts clicking links. Absolutely randomly. I mean there is no reason in the universe why the first result for “award winning books in english” should be the Northport-East Northport Public Library page. Shouldn’t Barnes and Nobel show up? Or an actual book award website? Or a library in a town bigger than 7500 people? There is no reason why he should magically he comes up with the same author. Unless…
Of course! This is the universe telling me something! I was destined to blog about Jack Gantos! Somehow we are connected. Cosmically speaking it was destined that we should cross paths (metaphysically or whatever) again! Of course. After all there is not other explanation why I would come across him twice in 6 weeks after never hearing of the guy in my entire life. This has to mean something right?
Enter The Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy. For a full and incredibly well done description of this fallacy you can go to David McRaney’s You Are Not So Smart (although I warn you that you should have some free time on your hands- the first time I stumbled across this site I spent about 3 hours on it).
From Wikipedia’s definition:
The Texas sharpshooter fallacy is a logical fallacy in which pieces of information that have no relationship to one another are called out for their similarities, and that similarity is used for claiming the existence of a pattern.
It derives from a joke where a person shoots at the side of the barn and then draws a bulls-eye on the spot with the most hits and then proclaims themselves a sharpshooter. No word on why it’s a Texan other than this does seem like something George W. Bush would do and since ipso facto: George Bush are all Texans, it’s the Texas sharpshooter fallacy.
Instead of looking at my entire life (wherein 99.99% of the time I did not hear about nor know the existence of Jack Gantos) I took only a 6 week time period (wherein his name came up-HOLY FUCKING SHIT-two times) and went, A-Ha! I’ve been destined to write about this man since the beginning of time.
And now I have. And the prophecy has been fulfilled. Praise Jebus!
So, tell me your stories of times you attributed meaning to things that, in reality, were completely and utterly random.
HT [You Are Not So Smart]